HandcuffsSafety and crime rates top the list of important factors for most buyers when they are trying to decide where they want to buy their new home. Buyers that are moving to an unfamiliar area or a new city often ask their real estate agent if the neighborhood is “safe”.

Unfortunately, that’s a tough question to answer. Depending on where you are used to living, your opinion of safe may be very different than your coworkers or your agent.

The reality is that every area has crime. It’s the type of crime that is most important to whether you would want to live in an area.

Does your future neighborhood have a car theft problem? Sex offenders? Shoplifting?

For many people, high levels of violent crimes are much more disturbing than non-violent or minor offenses.

How Do You Determine Crime Rates in a Neighborhood?

In most areas, determining the crime levels for different types of crime can be challenging.

Things that you can do to gauge how you feel about a neighborhood:

  • Call the local police department and ask if there are problems in the neighborhood.
  • Visit the local community center or neighborhood improvement organization and ask questions.
  • Visit the neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon, weekdays after school and after dark.
  • Park your car and take a walk through the neighborhood.
  • Talk to the neighbors. Ask them about what they like and what they think needs improvement.
  • Stop by a neighborhood cafe or bar and ask questions.
  • Check out the local Walgreens or grocery store. You’ll get a feel for the demographics of your future neighbors.
  • Look up the area on a sexual offenders registry.

St. Louis City Crime Map:

For people thinking about moving into St. Louis City, you are in luck. The City offers an interactive crime map that allows you to enter an address, radius distance and a time period. A map will show you the location of crimes in the region and what type of crimes were committed.

St. Louis city crime map in Tower Grove South

Legend: big blue circle – murder, face mask – robbery, needles – drug crimes, gun – weapons crimes

I always check to see where the violent crimes were committed. I’m much more concerned about murder, sexual assault, robbery and major assault than DWI or petty theft when considering the safety of a neighborhood. You can also see which neighborhoods have high levels of drug crimes, car theft, domestic violence and other crimes.

Keep in mind that every neighborhood has some crime. The best way to use the map is to compare different neighborhoods or to compare an unknown area to one that is familiar to you.

I wish that every county had similar transparency when it comes to crime rates. Unfortunately, St. Louis County and St. Charles County don’t have online crime maps, so you’ll have to do more legwork to get educated.

Racial, Religious and Ethnic Background are Off Limits:

Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of buyers. Some people are looking for racial, religious or ethnic diversity. Others want to live in a community with people similar to themselves.

It’s not my place to judge my client’s choices.

But, fair housing laws and the Realtor code of ethics makes it impossible for me to steer you to or from an area due to racial, religious or ethnic demographics.

The best way for you to see for yourself who lives in the area is to check out the neighborhood public elementary school at recess time. If you have quesions about where a particular religious or ethnic group lives, contact a community organziation, church or temple serving that group and ask. They’ll be happy to fill you in.